Facing still-high unemployment numbers across the region, job seekers lined Main Street in Rock Hill on Tuesday afternoon for a chance at employment.
Out of work since 2008, Mark Biba of Charlotte has found some work through temporary agencies such as Corestaff Services in Rock Hill.
He hasn't minded the temporary work until lately when there have been fewer jobs available, he said.
"The economy is bad. You wait and wait, and nothing," he said.
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Biba and dozens of other job seekers packed the staffing company's office, the line snaking along the sidewalk, to see what the company's job fair for industrial and clerical jobs could offer.
Many shared stories of being laid off and not being able to find work.
In November, the national unemployment rate was 9.8 percent and the state's was 10.6 percent. But York County's rose from 13.2 to 13.9 percent; Chester and Lancaster counties also saw increases. Rock Hill's unemployment rate dipped to 19.8 percent, the first time it has fallen below 20 percent in 17 months.
Biba has worked for decades at different companies as a machine and production technician, fixing machinery, creating molds for car parts and building vehicles, he said. He worked for a car company in Germany for 17 years and in Mexico, where he managed 120 people and 60 machine presses.
"I do everything," he said.
Now, he's willing to take anything available.
"I'm not going to wait. Whatever I get I'm going to take it," he said. "I used to make $60,000, $70,000 a year," but not anymore, he said.
Twanda Stewart of Rock Hill has had a steady, part-time job working for Aramark, a national company that runs restaurant facilities and provides food service for various entities including universities such as Winthrop. The job provided enough support for her and her teenage daughter until August when her hours were cut from 30 to 12 a week.
"I really need a 12-month job," she said.
With training in business, Stewart hopes to find clerical work, but she's worried she's been out of the field too long. She hasn't had a clerical job since 2000.
"I hope they give me a chance," she said.
Marc Mambweni, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, has worked four jobs over the 21/2 years he has been in the United States. He's gotten most of his jobs through staffing companies such as Corestaff.
Mambweni last worked full-time in the mailroom at Wachovia before he was laid off with others because of the economy, he said. The workers were told they'd be kept in mind when things picked back up, Mambweni said, but he's still waiting.
While he'd rather work in Charlotte where he lives, he'll take anything at this point. "I'm ready for any job," he said. "I'm going to pay a lot of bills every month."
Those who entered the staffing agency left with a similar mood of resolve to whatever's to come.
Stewart asked Biba if the agency had told him anything, if they'd called anyone's names.
"No, I have to call them every week," Biba said.
"I asked them when are we going to start," he said. It could be a few weeks or more than a month before he hears anything, he said.
Out of work since August, Jamie Simpson, 24, lives in Chester with his wife and two children and has since submitted more than 20 job applications since he was laid off from Philips Products in Chester.
"It's tough," he said. "Everybody's turning you down."
"But I'm strong," he said. "I'm going to keep looking."